Friday, February 17, 2012

Ron "Squee" Jeremy the Barbarian

Grand Prix: Indianapolis Tournament Organizer Pastimes have found themselves in a bit of a bind over their recent promotion of BDSM Magic-gear.  Namely, at least five people were incredibly offended by the art on the playmats that were intended to be handed out at the GP.  Thanks to the diligent work of various eyes on Twitter, the mats are apparently headed for wherever they send the "We Won the Super Bowl" t-shirts made for the team that actually, cough, lost the game.

"You said, licking, right?  Right?!"

While I usually prefer hiding in the corner of the Twitterverse whenever someone starts talking about a subject that involves an issue where I am part of the unwanted majority, in this case, I'm fine with adding my own opinion to the largely ignorable conversation.

If you aren't aware--maybe you don't have Twitter, or you only follow people whose names start with the letter "Q"--a growing portion of the Magic-playing audience is articulate, intelligent, and concerned about the various issues involving the portrayal of women within the game; not only in the art or promotional material, but in the culture at large.

One of the first, and loudest voices, to bring up the subject was Geordie Tait, whose "To My Someday Daughter" is required reading, even if you couldn't give a crap about how many bouncing breasts artists paint on your playing cards.

The discussion ebbs and flows, usually as just a deep current hidden beneath the more important issues, like whether or not Bertoncini is a dirty cheater or whether PVDDR enjoys calling judges to try and mize wins with "rules questions" that the third grader I  taught the game to last week knows the answers to.

Tellingly, outside of Elaine Chase's dictatorial hand pimp-slapping Midwestern card dealers, there is not much in the way of an official response from Wizards on any of the issues at hand.  So, instead, we are left with a sort of wink/nudge that it might be objectification, but go ahead and leer at Steve Argyle's full-art depiction of Liliana Vess.

But oiled-up, buxom babes as a bloated goblin's sex slaves?  That gets the banhammer.

The hypocrisy is the most appalling issue in my eyes.  See, unlike many of the others embroiled in this discussion, I can't say with a straight face that I don't enjoy potentially offensive images.  I like it when my girlfriend poses herself in ridiculous contortions with a come-hither smile, and I don't particularly find in-depth discussion of the phallogocentric paradigm to be titillating.

Having said that, I do strongly believe that there is a time and a place for certain things.  I wouldn't enjoy my girlfriend posing half-naked in a subway car full of random people, her back arched at an implausible angle with a big ol' CFM smile on her face*.

More relevantly, the fact that I do enjoy such things reveals exactly how distorted society's view of what objectification means really is.

Jesse Mason writes about this topic here, and a lot of the points are similar to what I would make.
Here is one comment that Wizards has officially made:

@ElaineChase: We keep a standard for Magic art to portray strong female characters.  Sexy is OK, submissive or damsels in distress is not.

We can argue whether or not Magic does a good job of sticking to what Elaine Chase apparently believes is their artistic standard--I don't, for example.  But the fact that we have to is another glaring reminder of how insidious the problem is.

It's very rare to find an example of objectification that the vast majority of people would agree on and the reason that we can't is that because the presentation of women as objects is so entirely commonplace that it's almost entirely ignored.

And that fact circles back to the hypocrisy. 

Acknowledging that the majority of your audience is comprised of adolescent and teenage boys is fine, catering solely to that demographic through fan service is ignorant.  The comic industry has been plagued by this, especially with the ballyhooed introduction of the New 52 initiative by DC, which saw the hyper-sexualization of many core characters for indiscernible reasons. 

"See, she is a very complex character who is confused by prudish American culture, and is trying to understand--"
"Alright, look, giant boobs.  Honestly, I don't know why you are upset, this is like the most clothes she is wearing in this issue..."

There are not many, I cannot imagine, teen boys who whip out their Magic collections in their treehouses--do kids still have treehouses?--to show off the sexiness of their alt-art Snuff Out.**

I want to say more, and I may expand on this essay at some point, but for now, I'm hindered by the fact that I don't want to fall into the hypocritical trap.  To wrap up:

                *   You can't defend objectification by saying the opposite sex is just as objectified.
                *   Mostly because it isn't, and until I see a titanic crotch bulge as the focus for
                     Zendikar 2.0's Vampire Sting", it isn't likely going to be.
                *   Squee as Ron Jeremy starring in a Conan re-make is actually pretty funny, but seriously?         
                     Keep that on your deviantart.

Ben Snyder can't draw, but if he could it almost definitely wouldn't involve voluptuous women in provocative poses.  His first ebook is available, and he'll give away the secret that Evelyn is not at all as helpless or damsel in distress as she occasionally seems.  You can get the first book here.

*Ok, I would.  But that's because I trust her, and there's something about making other people jealous that is strangely effective…still, if there were kids around, even kids with Internet connections quickly closing RedTube windows whenever an adult walks near…

**For the record, this art is jaw-droppingly awesome, or could be, if Argyle would have just shifted the camera to the right a little more and changed the angle slightly.  That near-promiscuous grin on Liliana's face, combined with the death's head and the detail of her pinching the wick of the candle is fantastic.  Unfortunately, as it is, the art seems like one of those demotivational "Optical Illusion" pictures where the island supposedly floats into view once you stop staring at the oh-my-god enormous boobs!

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